Sunday, October 22, 2017

Project 366 - Moonlighting

To mark the fifth anniversary of ITYWLTMT, we are undertaking a long-term project that will introduce - and re-introduce - musical selections in the context of a larger thematic arc I am calling "A Journey of Musical Discovery". Read more here.



Today’s is the final chapter in Part One of our ongoing Project, and the last of our "journeys without specific purpose".
 and
Moonlighting for some evokes images of Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. Here it isn't about sexual tension - it's about the common use of the term: people who hold more than one job.

When we think of musicians and their jobs, three terms come immediately to mind - performance, composition and education. (We could also add administration to the list, but let's stop at those three..)

Through the ages, the musicians we have come to know and love play in two, if not three of these roles - Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin, and Sergei Rachmanino are three examples of pianist-composers. Vivaldi, Hummel and Salieri were "triple threats" as performers, composers and teachers.

The list goes on!

Today, let me single out five 20th century figures that we widely recognize as conductors who also have established themselves in other spheres.

André Previn (*1929)


A regular guest with the world’s major orchestras, both in concert and on recordings, conductor, composer and pianist André Previn has held chief artistic posts with such orchestras as the Houston Symphony, London Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony and Royal Philharmonic orchestras. In 2009, André Previn was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra.

As a pianist, André Previn enjoys recording and performing song recitals, chamber music and jazz. He has given recitals with Renée Fleming at Lincoln Center and with Barbara Bonney at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. He regularly gives chamber music concerts with Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lynn Harrell, as well as with members of the Boston Symphony and London Symphony orchestras, and the Vienna Philharmonic.

André Previn has enjoyed a number of successes as a composer. His first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque. Recent highlights include the premiere of his Double Concerto for Violin and Double Bass for Anne-Sophie Mutter and Roman Patkoló, premiered by the Boston Symphony in 2007. His Harp Concerto commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony premiered in 2008; his work "Owls", was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2008; his second opera, "Brief Encounter", commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera premiered in 2009; and his double concerto for violin and viola, written for Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yuri Bashmet, received its premiere in 2009. [Source: Philadelphia Chamber Music Society]

Listener Guide #118 features composer, pianist and conductor André Previn. Selections include works by Previn, Mozart and Gershwin. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #257 - 29 Aug 2017)


Mstislav Rostropovich (1927 - 2007)

Mstislav Rostropovich (photo: Sasha Gusov/EMI Classics)

Mstislav Rostropovich was a Russian cellist, pianist, conductor, pedagogue and political figure whose international performances and public appearances symbolized the struggle of intellectuals against the rigid Soviet Communism. His teachers at Moscow Conservatory were Dmitri Shostakovich, and Sergei Prokofiev, and both became his main musical influences for life. In 1951 Rostropovich was awarded the State Stalin's Prize, after his numerous victories at international competitions and a growing stream of recognition and acclaim.

In 1969 Rostropovich saved his friend, dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from prosecution. At that time Solzhenitsyn needed a place to hide from the Soviet authorities. An arrangement was made for Solzhenitsyn to live secretly at Rostropovich's dacha, a summer cabin outside of Moscow. This angered the Soviet Communists, and Rostropovich was banned from international tours and royalties. His performances in the Soviet Union were also banned, his income was drastically reduced, and his musical activity was limited to teaching. The Soviet authorities put severe pressure on Rostropovich by restricting his communication with the world and by ignoring his numerous invitations to perform at international festivals and competitions.

In 1974, after years of struggle with the Soviet dictatorship, Rostropovich fled the Soviet Union with his wife and two daughters, Olga and Elena. He became a much more relaxed person in exile, living the artistic freedom he had so longed for, and did not want to go back until the fall of the oppressive Soviet regime. In 1977 Rostropovich was appointed Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) in Washington, DC, the post he kept for the next seventeen years. Soon after Rostropovich became employed in the USA, his Soviet citizenship was revoked by Leonid Brezhnev in 1978.  In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev restored his citizenship allowing Rostropovich to return back home. His return happened during the most dramatic events of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He returned to the new Russia and continued his career as a musician and public figure. He lived in his homes in Moscow and in St. Petersburg and remained active in cultural and political life. [Source: IMdB]

Listener Guide #119 showcase Mstislav Rostropovich as cello soloist and as conductor in two works composed by his mentor, Dimitri Shostakovich. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #260 - 29 Sep 2017)


René Leibowitz (1913–1972)


René Leibowitz was a noted Polish-born French composer, conductor, music theorist and teacher. His musical career began with the study of the violin at the age of 5. Between the ages of 9 and 13 he gave violin recitals in Warsaw, Prague, Vienna and Berlin, but his father decided to end his premature concert career, since he wanted his son to lead a normal life and not that of a child prodigy. On no account, however, did this diminish young Leibowitz's interest in music. His family sttled in Paaris in 1926. From 1930 to 1933 he studied composition in Berlin with Arnold Schoenberg and in Vienna with Anton Webern. He continued his daily practice and began to conduct as a young student in Berlin. Eventually he made Paris his home. There he studied composition and orchestration with Ravel (1933), and conducting with Pierre Monteux.

René Leibowitz made his debut as a conductor in 1937 with the Chamber Orchestra of the French Radio in Europe and the USA. René Leibowitz's repretoire as a conductor spanned virtually everything, including opera, from the Baroque to the most modern 20th century composers. Stamped by the spirit of the Viennese school, he considered faithfulness to the music as the highest standard of interpretation, a principle which must have collided head-on with the romantic ideals of contemporary concert practice. His achievements as a conductor were unique because of the uncompromisingness with which he expressed the modernity of the classical composers as well as the roots of modern composers in the traditions of the past. As condRuctor, Leibowitz was active in many recording projects. One of the most widely circulated and most notable is a set of the L.v. Beethoven symphonies made for Reader's Digest Recordings; it was apparently the first recording of the symphonies to follow L.v. Beethoven's original metronome markings. In choosing this approach, Leibowitz was influenced by his friend and colleague Rudolf Kolisch. Leibowitz likewise made many recordings for Reader's Digest in their various compilation albums.

As a composer, René Leibowitz adopted the 12-tone method of composition, becoming its foremost exponent in France. Many of the works of the Second Viennese School were first heard in France at the International Festival of Chamber Music established by Leibowitz in Paris in 1947. Leibowitz was highly influential in establishing the reputation of the Second Viennese School, both through activity as a teacher in Paris after World War II (in 1944 he taught composition and conducting to many pupils, including Pierre Boulez (composition only), Antoine Duhamel, and Vinko Globokar) and through his book Schoenberg et son ecole, published in 1947 and translated by Dika Newlin as Schoenberg and his School (USA and UK editions 1949). This was among the earliest theoretical treatises written on Schoenberg's 12-tone method of composition. Leibowitz's advocacy of the Schoenberg school was taken further by his two most gifted pupils, each taking different paths in promoting the musics of Schoenberg, Webern and the development of serialism, namely Pierre Boulez and Jacques-Louis Monod. His American students include the composers Will Ogdon, Janet Maguire, and the avant-garde film director-animator John Whitney. [Source: Bach Cantatas]


Listener Guide #120 showcases works composed by René Leibowitz, as well as one of his memorable Beethoven symphony recordings (ITYWLTMT Podcast #255 - 11 Aug 2017)


Igor Markevitch (1912-1983)


Igor Markevitch was a Ukrainian, Italian, and French composer and conductor. Born in Kiev, son of the pianist Boris Markevitch and Zoya Pokitonov, Markevitch moved with his family to Paris in 1914 and Switzerland in 1916. Alfred Cortot discovered his musical ability and took him to Paris in 1926 for training as a composer and pianist at the Ecole Normale , where he studied under Cortot and Nadia Boulanger.

Igor Markevitch gained recognition in 1929 when he was discovered by Serge Diaghilev, who commissioned a Piano Concerto from Markevitch and desired him to collaborate on a ballet with Boris Kochno. In a letter to the London Times Diaghilev hailed Markevitch as the man who would put an end to 'a scandalous period of music ... of cynical-sentimental simplicity'. The ballet project came to an end with Diaghilev's death on August 19, 1929, but Markevitch's works were accepted by the publisher Schott and he continued to produce at least one major work per year during the 1930’s, being rated among the leading contemporary composers. He started being hailed as "the second Igor" - the first Igor being Igor Stravinsky.

Igor Markevitch collaborated on a ballet, Rébus with Leonid Massine (1931) and another, L'envol d'Icare (1932) with Serge Lifar; neither was staged, though both scores were performed as concert works. L'envol d'Icare, based on the legend of the fall of Icarus, which Markevitch himself recorded in 1938 with the Belgian National Orchestra, was especially radical, introducing quarter-tones in both woodwind and strings. (In 1943 he recomposed the work under the title Icare, eliminating these, rescoring and simplifying the rhythms.).

Igor Markevitch continued composing as war approached but fell seriously ill. After recovering, he decided to give up composition and focus exclusively on conducting.

Igor Markevitch made his debut as a conductor at age 18 with the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam. As a conductor, he was well-respected for his interpretations of the French and Russian repertory and of 20th-century music. He settled in Italy and became an Italian citizen. During World War II he was active with the partisan movement. He relocated again, to London in 1953, and then to Switzerland. Beginning in 1965 he worked for the Spanish RTVE Orchestra. [Source: Bach Cantatas]

Listener Guide #121 features works composed and contemporaneous works conducted by Igor Markevitch. (ITYWLTMT Montage #248 - 26 May 2017)



Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)


The prodgiously gifted American conductor, composer, pianist, and teacher, Leonard (actually, Louis) Bernstein, took piano lessons as a boy and attend ed the Garrison and Boston Latin Schools. At Harvard Universty, he studied with Walter Piston, Edward Burlingame-Hill, and A. Tillman Merritt, among others. Then at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, he studied piano with Isabella Vengerova, conducting with Fritz Reiner, and orchestration with Randall Thompson. In 1940, he studied at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's newly created summer institute, Tanglewood, with the orchestra's conductor, Serge Koussevitzky. Bernstein later became Serge Koussevitzky's conducting assistant.

In 1945 he was appointed Music Director of the New York City Symphony Orchestra, a post he held until 1947. After Serge Koussevitzky died in 1951, Bernstein headed the orchestral and conducting departments at Tanglewood, teaching there for many years.

In 1956 Leonard Bernstein was engaged as associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic orchestra with Dimitri Mitropoulos, and became his successor as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in 1958. From then until 1969 he led more concerts with the orchestra than any previous conductor. He subsequently held the lifetime title of Laureate Conductor, making frequent guest appearances with the orchestra. More than half of Bernstein's 400-plus recordings were made with the New York Philharmonic.

Leonard Bernstein was a leading advocate of American composers, particularly Aaron Copland. The two remained close friends for life. As a young pianist, Bernstein performed Copland's Piano Variations so often he considered the composition his trademark. Bernstein programmed and recorded nearly all of the Copland orchestral works - many of them twice. He devoted several televised "Young People's Concerts" to Copland, and gave the premiere of Copland's Connotations, commissioned for the opening of Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) at Lincoln Center in 1962.

While Bernstein's conducting repertoire encompassed the standard literature, he may be best remembered for his performances and recordings of Haydn, L.v. Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Schumann, Sibelius and Gustav Mahler. Particularly notable were his performances of the G. Mahler symphonies with the New York Philharmonic in the 1960’s, sparking a renewed interest in the works of G. Mahler.

Inspired by his Jewish heritage, Leonard Bernstein completed his first large-scale work: Symphony No. 1: Jeremiah. (1943). The piece was first performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1944, conducted by the composer, and received the New York Music Critics' Award. Koussevitzky premiered Bernstein's Symphony No. 2: The Age of Anxiety with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Bernstein as piano soloist. His Symphony No. 3: Kaddish, composed in 1963, was premiered by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Kaddish is dedicated "To the Beloved Memory of John F. Kennedy." He also wrote many other compositions for various combinations, including orchesral, choral, chamber and piano works, song cycles, operas, scores for movies, music for ballett, incidental music for plays, musicals, and more. [Source: Bach Cantatas]

Listener Guide #122 is a re-creation of the Tanglewood concert held on 19 August, 1990 - Leonard Bernstein's last public performance.  conducted his last concert. (ITYWLTMT Montage #18 - 19 Aug. 2011)


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Viviana Sofronitsky & Mozart

No. 262 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.


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** This episode was published on Pod-O-Matic ahead of schedule, so here's the accompanying blog post **

In recent weeks, I have dedicated a number of my posts and playlists to Mozart’s piano concertos – this is part of an ongoing arc I began in the summer of 2015 which should ultimately result with having programmed all 27 piano concerti in ITYWLTMT podcasts.

Today’s installment is a convergence of sorts – Mozart and “old keyboards”, the latter having been the subject of a montage earlier this year. Russian-born pianist Viviana Sofronitsky is the daughter of pianist Vladimir Sofronitsky. Born in Moscow, she began studying music at home before she was enrolled in the Central Music School. She advanced to the Moscow Conservatory, where she earned a DMA. While living in the Soviet Union, she pursued her interest in early music by working with such period ensembles as Madrigal and the Chamber Music Academy, appearing additionally as a soloist in Moscow, Leningrad, and other major cities.

Sofronitsky moved to the United States in 1989 to study early music at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, then moved to Toronto, where she participated in performances and recording sessions with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. She became a Canadian citizen in 1994.

In 1999, she received degrees in fortepiano, harpsichord, and early music performance from the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. She has lived in the Czech Republic since 2001 with her husband, Paul McNulty, a manufacturer of fortepiano replicas that Sofronitsky collects and plays. She performs on a two-manual harpsichord by Yves Beaupré, a Viennese fortepiano by F. Teller, and copies of fortepianos by Stein, Walter, Graf, Pleyel, and Boisselot.

Her 2005-06 11CD box set with Musicae Antiquae Collegium Varsoviense constitutes the first-ever complete cycle of Mozart’s works for keyboard and orchestra performed on “original” instruments. The orchestra’s musical director Tadeusz Karolak carefully shapes the orchestra's performance, and expertly melds their performance to the soloists to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
In today’s montage I have retained four of these concerti; the first (no. 2) is performed on the harpsichord and the remaining three (nos. 5, 6 and 11) are performed on the fortepiano.

More selections from the set (YouTube) - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtAALrT5fq6WtXobepmmbhx6kcO2mS3zt

I think you will love this music too!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Four Bach Keyboard Suites


This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.


Today I dig through some old MP3.COM downloads for a Once Upon the Internet playlist o four keyboard suites by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach composed suites, partitas and overtures in the baroque dance suite format for solo instruments such as harpsichord, lute, violin, cello and flute, and for orchestra.

In Bach’s solo keyboard catalog, we typiocally focus on the following sets of 19 suites for keyboard, six English Suites, BWV 806–811, six French Suites, BWV 812–817, the six Partitas, BWV 825-830 and the Overture in the French style, BWV 831.

The nomenclature “English” and “French” isn’t necessarily attributed to Bach and his contemporary publisher - Suites were later given the name 'French' (first recorded usage by Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg in 1762). Likewise, the English Suites received a later appellation.

Bach's biographer Johann Nikolaus Forkel wrote in his 1802 biography of Bach, "One usually calls them French Suites because they are written in the French manner." This claim, however, is inaccurate: like Bach's other suites, they follow a largely Italian convention. The Courantes of the first (in D minor) and third (in B minor) suites are in the French style, the Courantes of the other four suites are all in the Italian style. Some of the manuscripts that have come down to us are titled "Suites Pour Le Clavecin", which is what probably led to the tradition of calling them "French" Suites.

Bach's English Suites display less affinity with Baroque English keyboard style than do the French Suites to French Baroque keyboard style; the name "English" is thought to date back to a claim that these works might have been composed for an English nobleman. It has also been suggested that the name is a tribute to Charles Dieupart, whose fame was greatest in England, and on whose Six Suittes de clavessin Bach's English Suites were in part based.

The six partitas for keyboard are the last set of suites that Bach composed and the most technically demanding of the three. Although each of the Partitas was published separately under the name Clavier-Übung (Keyboard Practice), they were subsequently collected into a single volume in 1731, with the same name, which Bach himself chose to label his Opus 1.

Happy listening!

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

English Suite No. 2 in A minor, BWV 807
Justine McIntyre, piano

English Suite No. 3 in G minor, BWV 808
French Suite No. 6 in E Major, BWV 817
Sonia Rubinsky, piano

Partita No.1 in B Flat Major, BWV 825
Elaine Lau, piano

Downloaded from MP3.COM (December 2002)



Friday, October 13, 2017

Antonio Salieri (1750-1825)

No. 261 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.


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Today’s Blog and Podcast features a montage of works by the Italian Classical master Antonio Salieri. Born in the northern Italian town of Legnano in 1750, Salieri came to Vienna aged 15, where he was introduced to his later mentor, Gluck, and to the emperor, Joseph II. Salieri was invited to join in chamber music sessions with the emperor, and soon found himself launched on a career in the imperial court.

In a Guardian article by Erica Jeal, she writes that it's hard to say which view of Antonio Salieri is more firmly embedded: that he was the tormentor who drove Mozart to an early grave or that he was a lousy composer. If Salieri wasn't the enviously wrathful schemer portrayed in the 1984 film Amadeus, who was he? What is certain is that by 1781, when the 25-year-old Mozart set up home in Vienna, Salieri, six years his senior, was an established star.

An ambitious young composer such as Mozart could conceivably have wished Salieri out of the way, but the other way round? Hardly. So what if Mozart collaborated on Le Nozze di Figaro with Beaumarchais, the doyen of the Paris stage? Salieri was already working on Tarare, to a libretto by Beaumarchais himself, a work that would be a hit in Paris.

And if Mozart's collaborations with the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte bore greater fruit than Salieri's? Well, no matter - it was Salieri, after all, who could claim credit for bringing Da Ponte to Vienna. However, if what Mozart's wife Constanze reported was true, there was one incident that might conceivably have sparked a rivalry. She claimed that Salieri had been offered Da Ponte's libretto for Cosi Fan Tutte - and had rejected it as being not worth setting. When Mozart got his hands on it, a humiliated Salieri had to eat his words.

It was only after Mozart's demise that Salieri began to have any real reason to hate him. Unlike that of any before him, Mozart's music kept on being performed - he became the first composer whose cult of celebrity actually flourished after his death. Salieri, however, had outlived his talent. He wrote almost no music for the last two decades of his life.

He did have an impressive roster of pupils: Beethoven, Schubert, Meyerbeer and Liszt - not to mention Franz Xavier Mozart, his supposed adversary's young son. But the composer who had once been at the vanguard of new operatic ideas was not necessarily teaching his students to be similarly innovative; we can only be grateful that Schubert ignored his diatribes against the "intolerable" genre of Germanic lieder.

In somewhat ominous fashion, the montage starts with a piano piece by Mozart setting six variations on a theme on the Salieri aria "Mio caro Adone" from the Finale (Act II) of the Opera La fiera di Venezia. The young composer was still in his teens when he wrote this work and must have held some admiration for Salieri at the time.

This raises an inevitable yet perhaps unfair question: how does Salieri's work differ from Mozart's? One might say that Salieri’s music feels more mature and textured, whereas the latter very often placed a strong emphasis on melody. But it is best to simply evaluate Salieri's works based on this short sampling.

What makes Salieri's Variations on "La follia di spagna" noteworthy is that it is one of only very few sets of successful orchestral variations that was written before the late Romantic period, when the form became more popular after Brahms' 1873 Haydn Variations. Salieri's take on the famous Portuguese (not Spanish, as the title suggests) theme, the score calls for strings, woodwinds, brass, harp, percussion, and tambourine, all featured at some point over the 26 variations.
The montage next features a pair of concerti for groups of instruments and orchestra, reminiscent of the concerto grosso genre from the earlier baroque period.

One might hear echoes of Le Nozze di Figaro in the beginning of La Veneziana, where the strings play together wonderfully. Actually, perhaps it is more accurate to say that the spirit of The Marriage of Figaro drew on inspiration from the teacher.


I think you will love this music too.